Children’s education at extreme risk in 7 African countries: Report

Besides sub-Saharan Africa, children were at the sharp end of the learning crisis in Yemen and Pakistan, according to a new report

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Monday 06 September 2021
Photo: Wikimedia

The education system in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Mali and Libya in Africa and Afghanistan in Asia is at extreme risk of ongoing and future crises.

In sub-Saharan Africa, children were hardest-hit by the learning crisis the report, titled Build Forward Better by non-profit Save the Children, noted.

More than half of the 63 million primary-age, out-of-school children worldwide, lived in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report.

The countries with the highest out-of-school rates included South Sudan (68 per cent), Liberia (62 per cent) and Eritrea (57 per cent), the report said.

Sub-Saharan Africa also had the highest rate of children who were not learning. In 2017, nine out of ten children aged 6–14 were not meeting minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics.

The report also found that besides sub-Saharan Africa, children were at the sharp end of the learning crisis in Yemen and Pakistan.

In Yemen, eight million girls and boys — out of 10 million primary-age children — needed education-in-emergencies assistance. In Pakistan, close to 45 per cent of children — nearly 22.5 million — were out of school, five million of whom were primary school age.

Factors such as climate change, a lack of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines, displacement, attacks on schools and lack of digital connectivity were threatening access to schooling, the report said.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 89 per cent of learners did not have access to household computers, 82 per cent lacked internet access and 28 million lived in locations without a mobile network, according to the report.

The analysis found that millions of children around the world, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, were bearing the brunt of climate change.

Children, generally girls, pulled out of school to help alleviate domestic burdens. In Ethiopia, following the droughts in 2010–11, an increase in the rates of child marriage was reported.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic had put millions more children at risk of not reaching their developmental potential.

Throughout the pandemic, conflict had continued to blight children’s education. Despite COVID-19 school closures in the central Sahel between late March and May 2020, reports indicated that attacks on education here continued.

There were more than 90 attacks on education in the first seven months of 2020. Burkina Faso experienced the highest number of reported attacks on education in the region in the first seven months of 2020, with over 40 reported incidents.

There was a gap in education financing even before the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, the report noted. A pre-COVID estimate of the financing gap to reach Sustainable Development Goal 4 in low- and lower-middle-income countries was $148 billion annually. Additional costs due to COVID-19-related school closures risked increasing the financing gap by up to one-third or $30–45 billion.

The report recommends an eight-point plan to build forward better education systems:

  • COVID-19 recovery — Ensure children can return to school safely
  • Preparedness and anticipatory action
  • Target out-of-school children
  • Keep learning safe
  • Scale up and adapt financing
  • Get the data right
  • Focus on equity and child participation
  • Move decision-making power and resources into national and local civil society.

 Education for Sustainable Development is recognised as an integral element of SDG4 on quality education.

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